By: Dr. Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP, CH
How can you tell if a product that calls itself “all-natural” truly is “all-natural?” You might decide to read the label, but unless you are a chemist, you will soon be scratching your head in confusion. You see, ingredients in most personal care products are listed by their chemical names. An “all-natural” product should have a label with easily understandable ingredients. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t yet work that way. For now, until the laws are changed, you must wade through the technical terms and learn to recognize the chemical names of substances you wish to stay away from. Below is a list of some toxins often found in personal care products that you should definitely avoid:
1,4-dioxane: This known carcinogen is found in many beauty products as a hidden by-product of other chemical combinations. Products that use ethoxylated surfactants as foaming agents or emulsifiers often produce 1,4-doixane during the manufacturing process. This chemical is considered toxic if it is inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested orally.
Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40): This drying agent is a common ingredient in many personal care products. When applied directly to the skin, it peels off the outer most protective layer, and exposes the body to bacteria, fungus, molds, and other toxic agents. It is petroleum-based, and may promote brown spots on the skin or premature aging.
Anionic Surfactants: Surfactants are used in about 90% of foam-based personal care products. They are also used in car washes, garage floor cleaners, and as engine degreasers. Common anionic surfactants include: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS), Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES), Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate, Potassium Coco Hydrolysed Collagen, TEA (Triethanolamine) Lauryl Sulfate, TEA (Triethanolamine) Laureth Sulfate, Lauryl or Cocoyl Sarcosine, Disodium Oleamide Sulfosuccinate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, and Disodium Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate. Avoid all of these ingredients if they show up on the label.
Cationic Surfactants: This type of surfactant is commonly found in hair conditioners, as it has anti-static properties. However, this synthetic chemical is irritating to hair follicles and considered toxic. Long-term use can lead to dry, brittle hair. Common cationic surfactants include Stearalkonium chloride, Benzalkonium chloride, Cetrimonium chloride, Cetalkonium chloride, and Lauryl dimonium hydrolysed collagen.
Chloromethylisothiazolinone and Isothiazolinone: These two highly poisonous chemicals are corrosive to the eyes and skin. Long-term exposure can result in permanent eye damage and third degree skin burns. They can be deadly if ingested and can damage the mucous membranes of the lungs if inhaled.
DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), & TEA (triethanolamine): These chemicals are often included in personal care cleansing products to adjust the pH of the formula. They can produce allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dry skin, and are toxic if used long-term. These known carcinogens are already restricted in Europe, but they are still allowed in American and Asian cosmetic products.
Diazolidinyl urea and DMDM Hydantoin: These chemicals contain formaldehyde, a toxic carcinogen that can cause dermatitis, burning of the skin, irritation of the mucous membranes, inflammation, and watering of the eyes.
Ethoxylated surfactants: These surfactants are commonly used in skin care products as foaming agents, emulsifiers, and humectants. They may show up on the ingredient label as “PEG”, “polyethylene”, “polyethylene glycol”, “polyoxyethylene”, “-eth-”, or “-oxynol.” These chemicals form 1,4-dioxane (a known carcinogen) as a byproduct of their manufacturing process.
FD&C Color Pigments: These synthetic color pigments are manufactured from coal tar. They contain heavy metal salts that deliver toxic byproducts to the skin. These chemicals have been tested on animals and are proven carcinogens.
Formaldehyde: This is another known carcinogen that is commonly found in commercial cosmetics. It can produce allergic reactions, headaches, and chronic fatigue.
Imidazolidinyl urea: This chemical releases another harmful chemical called formaldehyde as a byproduct of the manufacturing process. It may be listed under the trade name Germall 115.
Lanolin: Lanolin is very common in commercial cosmetic formulas, and is often considered harmless. However, it is obtained from wool, and can thus be potentially contaminated with the pesticide DDT unless the wool used is organic.
Mineral Oil: Also called liquid parrafinum, mineral oil is a byproduct of petroleum that coats the skin like plastic. It disrupts the skin’s natural ability to “breathe” and purge itself of toxins. It also retards cell functions and can result in premature aging. Mineral oil can also be an ingredient in paraffin wax, paraffin oil and petrolatum.
Nitrosating Agents: Chemicals such as these that cause nitrosamine contamination have been found in laboratory tests to be carcinogenic. Nitrosamines are a component of the following chemical compounds: 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, Cocoyl Sarcosine, DEA compounds, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Formaldehyde, Hydrolysed Animal Protein, Lauryl Sarcosine, MEA compounds, Quaternium-7, 15, 31, 60, etc, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, and TEA compounds.
Paraben preservatives (methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl): These chemicals are often used in personal care products to squelch microbial formation and increase product shelf-life. They are commonly used in commercial cosmetics even though they are known toxins and can produce allergic reactions and skin rashes.
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) compounds: These petroleum products are used in commercial cleaners to cut grease and in spray-type oven cleaners. They are also included in some personal care products, and long-term exposure has been linked to premature aging.
Propylene/Butylene Glycol: This compound is considered so toxic by the EPA that it forces its workers to wear protective equipment when handling it. It is a petroleum product that passes through the skin easily, and can cause brain, liver, and kidney malfunctions. Watch out for this ingredient in stick deodorants where it can cause both acute and chronic health problems.
Rancid Natural Emollients: Creams and other commercial cosmetic formulas made from refined vegetable oils contain harmful transfatty acids. Polyunsaturated oils can also oxidize quickly, resulting in free-radical damage to the skin and premature aging. These formulas are also void of essential nutrients, fatty acids, and vitamins that naturally help protect and moisturize the skin.
Silicone derived emollients: Like other emollients, these products seal the skin like plastic wrap, and disrupt its ability to breathe and purge itself of toxins. These chemicals can accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes, and promote the growth of tumors. Common silicone derived emollients include Dimethicone, Dimethicone Copolyol, and Cyclomethicone.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES): When combined with other ingredients, these chemicals form nitrosating agents and have a cancer-causing effect on the body. Be particularly cautious of semi-natural products that claim to be derived from coconut oil.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS): These chemicals can weaken the immune system and cause damage to the eyes, digestive tract, nervous system, lungs, and skin. They are commonly found in foam-type personal care products. SLS and ALS are often listed as ingredients in semi-natural products that claim to come from coconut oil.
Stearalkonium Chloride: Originally developed as a fabric softener, this substance is often found in hair conditioners and creams. This toxic chemical can cause allergic reactions on contact.
Toluene: This chemical can be especially dangerous if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Aspiration can result in chemical pneumonitis, a deadly disorder. It is highly flammable in both liquid and vapor form, and it may toxic to the liver, kidneys, nervous system, and blood. Overexposure can result in fatigue, confusion, headache, dizziness, or generalized numbness. Severe overexposure can potentially result in coma and death. Toluene has also been linked to birth defects.
About the Author
Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP, CH is a Doctor of Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist, Holistic Health Practitioner and Clinical Herbalist in Houston, TX and Founder / CEO of Oasis Advanced Wellness. Under her leadership, OAW is known and respected as one of the leading companies in providing safe, clean and hi-tech natural health and wellness solutions for whole body wellness. Because of the need for high-end natural and organic skin care products, Dr. Lanphier has developed Lanique Botanicals, an all-natural skin care line which promotes natural health and anti-aging solutions for the skin. All Lanique Botanicals and OAW developed products are free of toxic ingredients, heavy metals, irradiation, excipients and preservatives and are certified organic, organic, wild crafted or of the highest purity and quality that we can obtain while still providing the utmost degree of active ingredients. All product batches are laboratory tested to ensure that you are getting exactly what the label states. We will never knowingly compromise health in order to provide a cheaper product or to get a product out quickly. Lanphier is Editor and contributor to the worldwide Free E-newsletter Advanced Health & Wellness. Please visit us at Oasis Advanced Wellness or www.oasisserene.com